The Sport and Academic Talent Integration through Exchange Programmes in Hockey (STICK) project aims to design a sports and academic exchange programme in hopes of helping elite and high performance athletes to participate in Erasmus without jeopardizing their sports career.

It is funded by the European Commission through its Erasmus+ SPORT action.

The project was originally proposed by the Atlètic Terrassa Club and the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona and was selected in the 2017 call of the SPORT action as part of the Erasmus+ programme. It was one of 160 selected from 370 proposals, with an excellent score of 87/100.

The project will be conducted by a total of 10 institutions from 5 European countries where field hockey is a prominent sport, with one hockey club and university per country. These are: Atlètic Terrassa Hockey Club, coordinator and promotor of the project, and the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona on behalf of Catalonia; Belgium, with the participation of KHC Dragons and the University of Antwerp; the Netherlands, with Rotterdam HC and the Erasmus University Rotterdam; England, with Beeston HC and Nottingham Trent University; and finally Ireland, with Pembroke Wanderers and the Dublin City University.

Currently, European university students must develop not only academic knowledge, but also the skills and competences needed to succeed in a highly globalised labour market. Today, language and intercultural skills and competences are basic and they are the reason why the European Commission gives support to mobility programmes which facilitate enrolling in studies abroad.

Amateur elite athletes are not immune to this reality. They must dedicate themselves to two careers and perform at maximum levels in both: academically and athletically. If they want to remain at the top level they must work hard at their training and in competitions. At the same time, they must excel academically given that their professional future will not depend on the sports they play, but on their studies and professional aptitudes.

Too often, students are forced to give up the experience of studying abroad, due to their rigorous training programme. Others decide to focus more on their studies and stop training in order to be able to live an international year abroad. Yet others choose to train abroad, but leave their studies aside because there is no university in the vicinity offering an Erasmus programme compatible with their home university. Moreover, many clubs and federations lose talented athletes who compete at high levels.

Those behind the STICK project see there is a need for universities and clubs to work together to make it possible for elite athletes not to have to choose between an academic career and their athletic training and be able to combine both things.

The two year project is initially focused on field hockey as a pilot sport, but the final objective is to make this academic-athletic mobility model applicable to all sports. In the long term, the European Commission is expected to implement this specific mobility scheme for elite and high performance athletes into future programmes.

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